“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

– Pope St. John Paul II

In the seven years we have called this house our home, we’ve made it our own with some minor cosmetic changes here and there. However, our family room has very tall ceilings and was painted a shade of yellow by the last owners that wasn’t egregious enough to prioritize changing, but internally chipped away at me every time I sat down on the couch to watch TV. While I can do a decent job with a paint roller, the combination of my crippling fear of heights and lack of scaffolding with my lack of time meant that a professional would be needed. The one or two times that I took the initiative to get a quote, I choked and decided feeding my children might be more important.

Another renovation project and some financial discipline finally presented the opportunity for my desire to be fulfilled. The wall color was an easy choice as we simply wanted to match the rest of the first floor. When the contractor asked me about the ceiling of the room that connects to the second-floor hallway, I told him we wanted “white, like everything else.” As I came in to the freshly painted room, the transformation was amazing, and I sat down on the couch with such joy…until I looked up and noticed what seemed to be a shadow in the hallway. Turning on a few lights, I realized the shadow was no shadow, but a line of demarcation between the “white” of my freshly painted ceiling and the “white” of the hallway that clearly was not white. My wife and I looked at it from 15 different angles, trying to rationalize why it didn’t look stupid, why it was just a problem at certain angles, and why we didn’t need to now paint all the hallway ceilings in the rest of the house. When the lead contractor came back the next day, as soon as he looked up, he said the one thing we didn’t want to hear: “Well, we can’t stop there.”

As I prepared to sell my kidney and worked out the details with the contractor who was responsible for this, I couldn’t help but think about the unintended consequences of change. Whether in life or leadership, how often do I try to improve something without thinking through how far the change might need to go or the implications of that change in other spaces? Before I slap on the primer or first coat, do I take time to see the project from different angles or perspectives? Do I understand what gradients exist among those I am serving and leading - even around concepts that I think are clear and straightforward? As we seek to discern the movements of the Spirit in our Church, are we conscience of “the whole room” and the effects our choices or well-intentioned changes can have on leaving shadows or awkward divisions?

In my haste to satisfy one desire, I created a problem that needed to be fixed. Thankfully, it only required half a kidney to correct, but it was an important reminder that initiating change comes with messiness and a responsibility to understand not only what you intend to accomplish but the need to be mindful of what you might leave unfinished or even broken in the process. As we continue through Lent, let’s invite the Lord to renovate our whole selves so that we may reflect His glory from every angle of our lives.

by Daniel Cellucci

February 26, 2024

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